Things people tell me – 1
Many years ago, when I was on one of my periodic rants about the general level of economic and political literacy in electorates, the person I was talking to remarked “you don’t seem to think much of the intelligence of electorates do you?”
He was dismayed when I cheerfully said “No I don’t”.
More recently, my sister, exasperated that I thought the decision by the UK electorate to Leave the EU was one of the stupidest decisions ever made by an electorate, said to me “so are you saying that all the Leave voters were wrong?” She was further dismayed when I said Yes.
Both of those responses are examples (if any were needed ) that my chances of being elected to political office in any current Western political system are somewhere between zero and none.
Yes, I am not impressed by the decision-making capabilities of electorates. They have shown for a long long time that they are quite capable of making bad decisions, both for their own interests, and those of the country they live in, if they are convinced by a combination of media blitzing, bullshit masquerading as fact, and men and women in sharp suits talking in resonant well-modulated voices.
There is some fundamental math to back up my cynicism. Starting with the reality that 50% of the population, by definition, is of below-average intelligence.
Then there is everyday evidence. Like the evidence in this thread about the voters in Missouri.
Despite deteriorating metrics of economic and medical health, electors are electing the same people over and over again.
Now, before people accuse me of “picking on the heartland” or some such, let me point out that I am not that much more impressed by voters in other states. California, for example, voted for the infamous Proposition 13 in the 1970s, which has led to endemic property tax distortions in the state. Effectively, many electors voted themselves a perpetual property tax break. The continual move towards deciding major strategy directions in governance by voter propositions has led to a situation in California where the Governor of the state is actually not in control of most of the state budget. Around 1/3 of it is mandated by propositions, 1/3 is controlled by Federal mandates, and the remaining 1/3 is controlled by the legislatures. This, of course, creates the paradox where the legislators have less and less power to effect change, which in turn pisses off the voters, who vote for yet more Propositions, which in turn restrict what politicians can do…you can see where that is headed. It is actually direct democracy by stealth, and I am not a fan of direct democracy, especially after watching the unhinged way in which many Americans behaved and talked after 9/11. An electorate in charge of the political process at that point in time would probably have nuked the 4th amendment, and destroyed the 1st and 5th Amendments. (We got the PATRIOT Act instead, which is bad, but not THAT bad).
The tendency of electors to vote against their own best interests is one of the paradoxes of modern Western democracy. However, when you analyze it through the lens of human psychology, the underlying reasoning becomes more apparent. Most of the people voting non-sensibly are frightened by something. Fear is a great motivator, but not necessarily for good decisions or actions. (Neither is anger, another voting motivator).
The most sensible explanation I ever read about voting patterns in poor states started by pointing out that the people at the bottom, such as the long-term unemployed and people on welfare, seldom vote. They are already alienated from the political system. The trope peddled by the GOP that the Democratic Party is supported by the non-working spongers (or skivers as they call them in the UK) is total bullshit. But it sure does sound good to the people on the next rung up the ladder, who are insecure and worried that they will fall down into that zone. Those frightened people vote in large numbers.
In an ideal world, voters would vote in a visionary fashion not based on reflexive responses to fear or self-interest. Alas, I now understand that this is unlikely in the current political climate. We will see a lot more Missouri-type trainwrecks unfold in the next few years.